A little less introverted

Last time I was in the US, I presented a talk to a roomful of people who intended to hear me speak. And I delivered that presentation across four cities. It was a work thing and I, along with my colleagues, helped customers figure out better ways to use our product.

It wasn’t my first time, so I wasn’t as stressed as I thought I’d be. On my first time, however, I spent weeks sleepless, burning myself out, almost to the point of hallucinating. But even then I managed to stand my ground facing an audience of about 75-100.

And during yet another trip, I attended an event called ISTE. It was a global conference for educators, and my goal was to talk to as many people as possible, understand their pain points, and identify ways to pitch our product to them. I initiated conversations with hundreds of strangers without creeping them out.

I want to say I was tall and skinny at thirteen, but I wasn’t. I was short and quite plump, and I enjoyed school life. The internet wasn’t in my life then so I had plenty of time to spend watching cartoons, reading, musing about my life, and creating random verses I called poetry.

At seventeen, things had improved a little. I was online at last and made my first contact with the alien world of Facebook. Not long after, I set up this blog (thanks bro for naming it and paying for the domain). I soon transitioned from journal writing and self-pity poetry to more general writing. As if in an epiphany, I realised I could write about anything and with practice, become good at it. Every day became a hunt for a writing prompt, and I craved more to publish blog posts than to meet friends outside of school. Social life? Near non-existent.

How, regardless of all that, I landed a writing internship at nineteen is rather surprising. But I took it, and eight months later, joined the company as a marketing copywriter.

By the time I was twenty-two, I had presented in front of an American audience. For the first time, circumstances thrust me into a room full of people I’d never met before. And it was fine.

I’ve come a long way since my high school days of scrawling in my journal. From being a timid teenager who preferred to stay away from people, who believed the stereotypes of introversion and revelled in being one, I’ve seen a drastic change in myself.

I’m still an introvert. I sometimes even take the long way to avoid running into people or stay in on weekends instead of partying with friends. But I no longer try and fit myself into other people’s opinion of an introvert.

There’re countless articles online that try and decode an introvert’s behaviour, all the while enforcing new guidelines for being one.

My work life changed my perspective on introversion. Being forced to meet people, I learnt that I enjoy working with various personalities. I saw that I was even good at making lasting connections. “Understand the introvert” type of articles will tell you most writers are introverts, that we live in a bubble, and aren’t conversation starters. That’s not always true. I write for a living, and I don’t shy away from extending the first word, but that doesn’t make me any less of an introvert.

We all face apprehension in life. I did too when it came to communicating with people. Tying that to introversion is unwise to say the least.

Introvert or not, some people need time and exposure to become a better communicator. Simple as that.

The explorer

Walking just about

a wondering wandering

solo traveller

Chit chatting away

I’m not what people call the social kind. I’m more of a…

…selective-social introvert.

It means I don’t like going out in large parties, or to large parties.

It means I’m uncomfortable with more than three people in a group.

It means I prefer being alone in my room than being lonesome in a crowd.

Most of all, I don’t mind people knowing that I’m not a people-person.

As a result, I stayed away from social media, too. I’d always found it too noisy, too spontaneous, and too narcissistic. Until I discovered Twitter chats.

I’d signed up for Twitter six years ago, but for more than five years, I made only feeble attempts at understanding how it works. And then one day, I had to analyse and evaluate Twitter for my work. As I combed through their documentation and scanned popular accounts, I discovered the wonder that is Twitter chats.

It seemed promising — a closed group of people discussing issues that mattered to them. That seemed like a purposeful way to spend time on social media, unlike the posting of selfies and sharing of love-struck statuses my friends did.

Though not all together certain, I joined my first chat. The sheer number of people who contributed to the conversation surprised me. As soon as the first question came on, a bunch of people replied in kind. Funny, enthusiastic, helpful, share-worthy responses piled up. As I read through them, I realised I could contribute something as well. I had a point that no one else had mentioned yet, and I felt an irksome desire to say it out. After all, these were people in my industry speaking their own experiences. It’s fair for me to do the same.

And I typed out my perspective. Within seconds people liked and retweeted my tweet. They replied, they agreed, and some even followed up with questions. The more I shared my ideas, the more conversation I generated. I realised I knew stuff that people thought were valuable. I knew tricks of the trade I didn’t know I knew. It was exciting. Twitter was exciting for the first time in five years! Social media, for once, was social to me.

That chat hooked me right in. From that day forward, I try my best to make it every time the chat happens. Every week, more and more people join in. But I never feel the crowd bearing on my shoulders. Instead, it’s fun to have more people in the discussion. Sure, sometimes my feed floods with hundreds of tweets even before I can read a handful of replies and answer a question, but it’s still useful, engaging, and welcoming as ever.

What began at one chat transcended beyond the one. When I began to participate in many chats, I realised there were others who showed up for particular chats every week. I started to see familiar faces, and I started making friends.

I’d become social. At least on social media.

— — — — — — —

Do you hang around Twitter chats? How do you like it? If you’re interested, come say hello @s_narmadhaa.

Mom, I Need Space


Sometimes being an average Indian means that you don’t tell your parents about what you want. What if they couldn’t afford that toy motorcycle, and by asking you’d only make them guilty?

It happened to me. Growing up, I never had the courage to tell my mother I needed my own space. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment and I had to sleep with my parents since my older brother, who had a lot of studying to do, needed the other room for himself. And the worst part of it was my parents thinking it was alright for a twelve-year-old girl not to have her own room.

But it felt weird to me. I was a loner, and I liked spending the day lying on my stomach with my face glued to the Chronicles of Narnia. I’d stay up all night, leaning on a wall beside my bed, inhaling page after page of Harry Potter. And when I wanted the lights on, my parents wanted the lights out.

Sure, I could’ve sat in the living room with my book. But it wasn’t the same as snuggling in a smaller room that I could call my own. It bothered me that I never had a little special place I could crawl into when Hedwig died and the world paused for a moment. It made me crave privacy like it was a heard-to-find gem.

But then I grew up and things seemed to brighten up. I got a job in a bigger city so I had to move out of my parents’ house. And because I was going away to an unknown city, my parents suggested moving into a hostel where I would have some company to understand the pulse of the bustling city that was so much unlike our modest one. I couldn’t afford to get a place of my own, anyway. So I agreed and stayed in a hostel room with three others.

And just as I had imagined, I had the company. But I soon realised that hostel was worse than sharing a room with my parents. Perhaps it’s just me, but after a long day at work, I’d like to come home and crawl into my bed with warm cocoa, soulful music, and a racy book. And instead, I’d come walk into a room full of chattering people trying to drown the television that screened the vanity in reality shows. Privacy still eluded me.

After much self-contemplation, I decided to move out of the hostel and even congratulated myself for being such a grown up and making my life decisions myself. And so I told my parents I considered getting a place of my own. I knew it would cost me a little more than sharing a room with three others. But at least it would be mine. My parents disagreed.

And they had their reasons, too: It’s unsafe for a twenty-one-year-old to live alone in a city she’s lived for three years already. That’s when I understood. According to them, I hadn’t moved out of their house at all. I had only moved away from home. My hostel life had been a temporary arrangement because I worked in a different city from my parents’. They even volunteered to move into the city to live with me. That way, the whole family could be in one place, they calculated.

I heard my clarion there.

I loved them, yes. But I had already spent a childhood living under my parents’ shadow, and I wasn’t going to spend my adulthood doing the same. So I tried explaining. But I had never told my parents what I wanted before, and it wasn’t easy to start doing it. I appealed to them that I needed my alone time. And they responded with rolling eyes and a statement: “Girls your age shouldn’t live alone.” So I decided to give up explaining.

It was time to take a more radical approach. I told them I’m moving out from the hostel. But I also decided they meant well worrying about my safety. So I made a compromise; I’d rent a two-bedroom apartment and share it with two of my colleagues. This time, however, my colleagues would share one room and I’d get a room of my own.

Telling my parents what I wanted was hard. But it was easier once I had reached my tipping point. And that point came when I read a chapter from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. What a woman.

Pursuit of Happyness

extroverts - paulo coelho

The Witch of Portobello is one my favourite books of Paulo Coelho. But I’m not sure if I agree with him on this one.

I’m no extrovert. And I’m no expert.

But I do know a lot of extroverts. And I know they love making merry and being comfortable. But so do introverts. We all want to be happy. The difference is how we represent ourselves. If extroverts are happy in large gatherings of friends, introverts are happy in the company of one good friend. It’s just that not many people know it when introverts are happy, because we share it with a select few. As for our extrovert counterparts, they like sharing their happiness with more than a select few.

But on a deeper level, extroverts or introverts, we all try to prove something to ourselves. And if being happy is what it is, then I say, nothing’s better.